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Pennsylvania Senate approves bill preventing public officials from identifying police officers who use force

[JURIST] The Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday approved a contentious bill [legislative materials] that allows public officials to be charged with a crime for identifying a police officer who used force against someone. The new statutory requirements would bar any public officials or employees from identifying police officers until 30 days after the use of force incident or after the investigation is complete. Anyone who violates the proposed law would face a second-degree misdemeanor charge. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania [advocacy website] criticized the bill [press release] for diminishing transparency and suggested that the bill may increase distrust between communities and police officers. The bill was amended by the Senate, so it now returns to the House for a vote. If the House agrees to the Senate's changes, it will head to Governor Tom Wolf [official website] for approval. A spokesperson for Wolf said [PennLive report] the governor is still reviewing the bill and has not yet made a decision.

The US has been facing years of concern over violence between law enforcement agents and civilians. Earlier this month the US Department of Justice (DOJ) released a statement [JURIST report] outlining plans to collect data on the use of force by police officers from across the nation. Attorney General Loretta Lynch described the project as focusing broadly on officer-civilian interactions, while encompassing use of force. In September the DOJ opened an investigation into the fatal police shooting of Terence Crutcher [JURIST report]. In July local groups and the ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the Baton Rouge Police Department for violating the First Amendment rights of protesters who were peacefully protesting the police killing of Alton Sterling [JURIST report]. Also in July the Attorney General gave her response to the shooting of police officers [JURIST report] in Dallas during a peaceful protest of recent police shootings of Sterling and Philando Castille.

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